Voltaire's Candide: Unrealistic Optimism

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How does Voltaire's use of characters serve to examine different worldviews, particularly as they pertain to philosophical optimism? Characters and worldviews: Pangloss: Unrealistic Optimism, all is for the best. Candide: undefined, he is the wild card, he changes views constantly throughout as new events occur, possibly the realistic optimist. Martin: Realism, neither pessimist nor optimist, he takes the world as it is. Cunegonde: the pessimist, she loves Candide, but is quick to jump to the worst possible scenario, although after some of the events in this book, it's understandable. In Candide by Voltaire, Voltaire uses his substantial variety of characters to demonstrate his views on various outlooks of life, especially in relation to…show more content…
Out of all of the characters Voltaire creates for this story, the most clear icon for unrealistic optimism comes in the form of Dr. Pangloss. Pangloss believes that all is for the best, even when his life has gone completely downhill. He is also a firm believer in Leibniz’ “best of all possible worlds.” Early in the story, after the invasion of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, Candide mistakes Pangloss for a beggar due to disheveled appearance. He is homeless, starving, and dying of advanced Syphilis, but still believes that his life will eventually return to the status it was before. From this point on, Pangloss is subject to one terrible event after another throughout the tale, such as being “hung” in the auto-da-fé while Candide is flogged. Pangloss is the vessel for unrealistic optimism in this story, and Voltaire demonstrates his disdain for the concept by putting Pangloss through these terrible events. Pangloss does very little to avert many of the events that occur, as he believes that they must occur because it is the best of all possible worlds and the occurrence of these events is therefore for the best. This is reminiscent of unrealistic optimism, in which it is believed that positive events will occur without effort on the part of the

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